ICC Note: Human cultural heritage is an integral part of a group’s identity and is a central target of groups such as ISIS in the Middle East. It is essential that states develop legislations that ensure the protection of cultural property. The Chaldean heritage of the Middle East has come under severe attack as shrines, churches and religious items have been destroyed.
06/06/2016 Iraq (Ankawa): It is important to protect cultural heritage and history of people in areas of conflict. Cultural heritage is an integral part of their identity and protecting cultural heritage is a way to preserve the identity of people. The affected groups in a conflict are those who are targeted because of their religions or ethnicities, aiming at cleansing them or forcing them to migration, a policy practiced by terrorists and the fundamentalist extremist groups. Therefore, maintaining the conditions for the people to live a normal life as much as possible in the conflict areas and to encourage them to return after the cease of conflict is crucial. The requirements and laws supporting their existence and continuation after the end of armed conflicts must be established. It is also one of the responsibilities of the international community to protect them and implements international laws. The assault on the world heritage is a war crime and whoever and wherever someone commit such crimes can be brought to justice. Thus, it is essential that states develop legislations to ensure the protection of cultural property and to criminalize the aggressors or that they apply existing laws and to pursue such suspects abroad. Offenders who commit crimes in the face of the cultural heritage may be tried in any other country in the world.
Human cultural heritage is not confined to buildings that have religious or archaeological value but also on its movable objects, whether documents, writings, or legacy prove historical and cultural value. Cultural objects constitutes a symbol, an identity, and history of the peoples and occupy an important place, not only people’s awareness but also in people’s unconscious. The cultural properties are those which have artistic value, historical, and archaeological, in addition to places of worship which constitute the cultural heritage and spiritual of peoples. Many of them were destroyed and attacked in Iraq and Syria, where cultural objects and places of worship are systematically targeted in order to erase the history and civilization of the area, not to mention looting them.
Destruction of a cultural object is of a disaster because it cannot be brought back again, as it happened in the case of city of Hatra, Museum of Nineveh, and many shrines in Ninawa Governorate. Criminals want to get and destroy the identity of peoples with flimsy and silly reason using their interpretation of religious texts to justify their heinous acts.
The fate of the Chaldean living heritage and collective identity in war zones and places of displacement and immigration is gradually disappearing little by little until possibly decaying. The Chaldeans who leave their regions forcibly or for other reasons cannot anywhere else exercise many of their popular heritage, visit shrines, and celebrate holidays as in the homelands where places, monasteries, and shrines were attended by them.
Today, they have fallen under the control of “the Islamic state” or ISIS. Even if their territories are liberated, many or even most of certain components of the society or “minorities” will not return due to loss of confidence in the future and in Iraq’s political system, especially those who already migrated or are awaiting their asylum approval. They encountered religious and racial discrimination, practiced even by their neighbors of other religions and ethnicities. Perhaps many cultural objects disappeared entirely or were ruined. For examples, many churches, temples, and archaeological sites were destroyed in order to erase their traces in the pretext that they are idols or of the infidels.